Our History

Lao Tzu:
“To See Things in the Seed, That is the Genius”
Calligraphy art work by: Julie-ann Williams
15 x 20cm watercolour paper, ink, gouache and gold leaf


Above: Colophon December 2005
“Celebration of the Alphabet” (click for larger image), commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the ASC. 25 Calligraphers from around Australia invited to particpate in this collaborative work, celebrating the 26 letters of the alphabet (I and J together as one).

Colophon December 1987, an edition dedicated to founders of the ASC and Guild Members; Lynette Mawer, Fran McKirdy, Helen Warren, Jocelyn Maughan, Margo Snape and Olivia Roberts.
Read their stories.

“To See Things in the Seed,
That is the Genius” Lao Tzu

Our Founders

  • Lynette Mawer
  • Jocelyn Maughan
  • Helen Warren
  • Fran McKirdy
  • Olivia Roberts
  • Margo Snape
  • Ethna Gallacher

It was Lynette who had the great dream ­— that Australia should have its own calligraphy society. The one inspired and very zealous young woman who had cajoled and gathered together the small bank of like minded persons is undisputedly recognised as the originator of the Society as it has become.

Lynette had training in ticket writing under the very capable tuition of Helen Warren at Bankstown TAFE and then branched out into a career, not only of ticket writing, but after more training as a sign writer. Within a few years of this she felt pulled into the interest of more decorative writing and entered Gymea TAFE where calligraphy was being taught by Fran McKirdy as an elective module of the Fine Arts Certificate course under the leadership of Jocelyn Maughan.

Fran’s teacher at St George was Olivia Roberts, who had arrived in Australia in 1965 from the UK after considerable training and qualifications in art, calligraphy and art teaching, both in Scotland and in England. Olivia, who had been teaching calligraphy for many years, was to be the calligraphy teacher for many of the early members of the ASC, including, whilst in Glasgow, Ethna Gallacher who was the ASC’s first editor and eventually in 1988, Australia’s first Fellow of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators in the UK.

The tenacity of Jocelyn Maughan, who battled long and passionately for calligraphy to be recognised in the TAFE system and who encouraged the first teachers and classes, is a debt the Australian calligraphic world should never fail to acknowledge. Jocelyn in 1970, was relieving Head Teacher in the Art Department at Gymea Technical College when Fran McKirdy came there. Fran had studied under the inimitable lettering teacher Eric Roberts at the National Art School and Jocelyn asked her to consider becoming a teacher —although she was first induced to attend classes at St George Technical College.

Also practising in Sydney as a professional graphic designer and principal partner in a design consultancy business was Margo Snape. Margo had qualified in calligraphy in London, where she gained distinction status in typography with London City and Guilds, then in 1947 came under Eric Roberts’ tuition. Later she made several visits to the USA, which contributed a tremendous amount to her calligraphic career. Although her business commitments were of primary importance, she contributed largely to those early beginnings of Lynette’s dream. She will always be remembered as the calligrapher who designed the Colophon masthead and eventually the logo.

Extract taken from Colophon Vol. 18 No.1 December 1997 “The Early Days of the Australian Society of Calligraphers” by Geoff Ford.

Our Logo

Launched in 1981, the logo of the ASC was designed to incorporate and ancient and modern expression of the written language which is the underlying basis of calligraphic endeavour.

The name of the Society, written in the historical uncial letter of the Third Century AD, was considered to have the rounded but substantial form complementing the ellipse shape in the centre, a symbol ot continuity, out of which the initials are reversed.

The initials were inspired by Lombardic capitals of the Ninth Century, which were used historically in combination with many hands throughout the centuries, but given a vital and modern interpretation — a symbol of the fundamental aim of the Society.

Designed in black and ‘rubicating’ red of the early manuscripts, the logo was required to reproduce well, either in a macro or large format, or in micro or diminutive form for a letterhead or compliment slip.

Explanation by Margo Snape, calligrapher and designer, as featured in Colophon Magazine Vol.1 No.2 Autumn 1981.

Our History

The beginning was 27th September 1980.
Lynette Mawer, a ticket writer, turned calligrapher called a meeting of several interested people. This included Jocelyn Maughan, Margo Snape, Ethna Gallacher, Fran McKirdy, Helen Warren and Oliva Roberts.

The purpose of the meeting was to establish the first calligraphy society in Australia — to promote the skills and artistry of calligraphy, as well as the teaching and appreciation of sound letter forms and techniques.

Fifteen people gathered at Sydney Technical College to establish the ASC.
The first general meeting of the society was held on Saturday 22nd November 1980. Lynette Mawer was elected as president of the society and Ethna Gallacher as editor.

1981: The second general meeting of the society was held on Saturday 14th February 1981. The society had 38 members and by March 1st, the number had risen to 43. The society now became identified by a red, white and black logo designed by Margo Snape. The inaugural Annual General Meeting was held on 17th October and by the end of 1981 membership reached over 80.

1983: The society held its first public exhibition in this year and was visited by calligrapher Tom Gourdie, who conducted two workshops.

1984: Donald Jackson was the first professional and internationally recognised calligrapher to visit Australia to hold a number of workshops and to open the society’s exhibition held in the State Library of New South Wales

1985: The concept and initial moves to introduce Guild Membership was established within the society.

1985-1994: The society continued to thrive.

1986: The membership rose to almost 400 members and Colophon continued to supply information, tips and tricks, exemplars, member profiles, letters from members, workshop information, impending visits and exhibition news. Most of the activity was related to paper and ink calligraphy, but other media such as wood and stone carving was being carried out.

1987: The society had 3 successful applicants for Guild Membership — Geoff Ford, Gail Rust and Elaine Witton

1988: The small backroom of calligraphy supplies in Asia Provisions, owned by William Lai, was replaced by the new full shop Wills Quills operating in Chatswood. Calligraphers at last had a shop where people spoke calligraphy and understood our needs— and William became recognised as an invaluable supporter of all calligraphy The society also organised a successful visit of workshops by Sheila Waters.

1989: Four members had achieved Guild Membership. Denis Brown toured Australia and gave workshops and lectures in Sydney.

1992: The society moved to Primrose Park Art and Craft Centre, a space shared with the Papermakers and Photographers. The society stayed until 1998.

1993: Ann Hechle, a highly respected British Calligrapher, gave a series of workshops and Guild Members held their second exhibition. Accredited calligraphy courses were held at Chatswood Evening College from 1995 to 2005.

Calligraphy was established and people were creating letters on everything from emu egg shells and sea-shells to quilts, aerated concrete and the human body. Calligraphy groups were popping up in different parts of the country, from Tasmania to Queensland.

In 1995 Chatswood Evening College implemented the Diploma of Western Calligraphy. ASC members (Margaret Layson and Gwyneth Daley) played a huge part in both developing and teaching the modules that constituted this VETAB accredited course. Over its short existence (the course closed in 2003) many professional calligraphers graduated from this course with a calligraphy and heraldic art education, unequalled anywhere in Australia. Overseas calligraphers were featured in Colophon and continued to visit and share their expertise. These included Roger Druet, Jenny Hunter Groat, Jean Larcher, Patricia Lovett and Susuan Hufton.

1996: The society held two major exhibitions and a second at Headmaster’s Gallery in St Ives – it was well attended and a very enjoyable affair. Membership peaked at over 1000 members, but from here sadly it declined.

1997: In May 1997, ASC organised a Celtic Exhibition. This was held in conjunction with the touring Riverdance group that took Australia by storm.  Another successful exhibition ‘The Writings on the Wall’ was held at Parliament House in August. The Honour Roll of notable members was initiated at this time.

Chatswood Evening College closed its doors and Macquarie College took over the Diploma and Certificate courses. There was an abundance of letter making, with more workshops and more overseas reports. Calligraphy was established and people were creating letters on everything from emu egg shells and sea-shells to quilts, aerated concrete and the human body. Calligraphy groups were popping up in different parts of the country, from Tasmania to Queensland.

2000: We reached the new millennium with a membership of 430.

1999: ASC moved back to Primrose Park and remain there to the present day.